Sunday, October 21, 2007


2165 Broadway (76th/77th Sts)

The tagline on the storefront sign at Grom is “Il gelato come una volta.” My extensive background in Romance languages tells me that this means either “Gelato eats a voltameter” or “Gelato like Voltron.” Whichever is the case, let me at it! The throngs who line up outside of Grom every evening must have had the same idea. It turns out, the glossy blue and white tri-fold brochure on the counter inside informed me, that “Il gelato come una volta” means “gelato as it once was.” While I was a little disappointed that my visit would involve neither stracciatella chowing on electrodes nor five flavors combining into a single Gelato Tutto-Potente, I was mostly relieved and looking forward to kickin’ it vecchia-scuola (that’s “old-school” for us Yanks).

Grom comes to us from Torino, heretofore best known as the town where France’s Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin displayed a particular finger to the officials who forced him to re-do his Super-G race due to bad weather conditions at the 2006 Winter Olympics (and who consequently fined him $3,800--2,826.00 € at press time). Like so many other Italian imports (Giada de Laurentiis, Ferragamo pumps, Fabio), Grom has an intrinsic layer of sexy that its stateside counterparts lack. One wall is covered with semi-pornographic photos of ingredients so fresh you may be tempted to slap them. Spring water, eggs, coffee beans, chocolate—all of them are captured from mere centimeters away, and it’s almost more than I can handle. These folks are big into their ingredients. The owners, Federico Grom and Guido Martinetti, have become involved with the Slow Food Foundation, and certain among the flavors on their menu are highlighted with the special Slow Food Snail, to indicate that it will take even longer for you to burn off these calories than the others you have packed in during your visit.

In all, I got to sample, in larger and smaller quantities, seven flavors—all of which, before I enter into more detailed analysis, were lovely. My first serving was divided between Tiramisu and Zabaione, which was made with Marsala wine. The Tiramisu tasted mostly like coffee gelato and was merely studded with tiny pieces of Ecuadorian chocolate. It was missing, in my estimation, the additional flavor components of true tiramisu. Zabaione to the rescue! Guess what is added to the mascarpone cheese to create the mixture that is spread between layers of ladyfingers in a tiramisu? Egg yolks, sugar, and liquor—the precise ingredients of a zabaione! My favorite tiramisu recipe uses Marsala as the liquor, and so the combination of these two flavors was a hit, even if the tiramisu on its own was a slight miss. The Extranoir Chocolate was deep, strong, and smooth, and would sate the cravings of even the most discerning chocoholic. The Gianduja (pronounced jon-DOO-ya, I learned) was like Nutella on Ice, with all the well balanced chocolate and hazelnut taste and none of the ridiculous costumes. It turns out that Gianduja is also one of the masks in the Italian commedia dell’arte, meant to represent the city of Torino. Lucky for us, there’s no gelato flavor called Pantalone, a commedia stock character who represents Venice, but also decayed virility—not tasty. The Ruby Red Grapefruit sorbet was intensely flavorful and shockingly creamy, without the telltale iciness that characterizes a lot of non-dairy frozen desserts.

The tri-fold brags that, in addition to its being low in calories,Grom gelato is the ideal, guilt-free dessert, with less cholesterol, carbohydrates, and 50% of the fat in super-premium brands.” Whatever you say, fellas, so long as it means I can eat more of it and not hate myself in the morning. And so, guilt no longer a factor, I got back in line for a second cup. The fact that the Coconut sorbet and Pistachio gelato I ordered were numbers six and seven in my tasting lineup may have contributed to their not being as extraordinary as their predecessors. A Californian transplant to Rome—and so, you would guess, someone who knows her fresh produce—told us when we were in Italy that the way to ascertain whether gelato is authentically artisanal is to check out the Banana and Pistachio flavors—both of which should be brown in color (like the ingredients themselves when they’re all mashed up), and not worrisome, day-glo® yellow or green, respectively. Grom’s Pistachio—noted on the menu as snail-worthy—passed the test, and the Coconut had the Ruby Red’s same impressive creaminess (although coconut milk is both creamy and non-dairy, and so it seems sort of like cheating). Both grew a bit boring after a few spoonfuls, but again, if they had been my evening’s only gelati, I think I would have been satisfied.

The only major downside of Grom (aside from the lines, which we handily avoided by going near closing on a rainy Wednesday) is the prices. I paid $5.14 for each of my small cups, and they were quite small. I guess the snails don’t eat for free. But maybe this exorbitance is for the best; if the rent weren’t so high, I might just pitch a tent and move in.

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